1993 NLCS: The Phillies Upset The Braves
The Atlanta Braves came into the 1993 NLCS as the clear favorite. The Braves had won this round in both 1991 and 1992 and were hungry to take the final step and win a World Series. They had won one of the great pennant races of all-time to get to this point. The Philadelphia Phillies were just a plucky underdog that should have been just happy to be here. But that’s not how it worked out.
You can read more about the season-long paths the Braves and Phillies each took to win their respective division titles and about their key players, at the links below. This article will focus exclusively on the games of the 1993 National League Championship Series.
READ MORE ABOUT THE 1993 PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
READ MORE ABOUT THE 1993 ATLANTA BRAVES
Major League Baseball used a rotation system to determine homefield advantage for postseason play. So even though the Braves, with 104 wins, had the best record in the game, they went on the road to old Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia to open up on a Wednesday night.
Curt Schilling would eventually become synonymous with big-game pitching. In 1993, he was just 26-years-old and making his first appearance on the October stage, starting Game 1 for the Phillies. Atlanta’s Steve Avery was only 23-years-old, but already an accomplished postseason performer and MVP of the ’91 NLCS.
Lenny Dykstra, unimpressed by Avery’s resume, greeted him with a double to start the home half of the first. An infield hit and a productive groundball from John Kruk put the Phils on the board. The Braves answered in the third when Avery helped his cause with a double down the left field line. Nixon followed him with another two-bagger and it was 1-1.
The teams exchanged runs in the fourth. After Schilling walked Ron Gant, Fred McGriff singled to set up runners on the corners with no outs. Dave Justice gave Atlanta the lead with a sac fly. Pete Incaviglia tied it right up back up for Philadelphia with a two-out solo blast in the bottom of the frame.
With one out in the sixth, Kruk worked a walk. Dave Hollins doubled and there were runners on second and third. An intentional walk brought Incaviglia to the plate again. But before Avery struck him out, he also threw a wild pitch that gave the Phils a 3-2 lead. Schilling worked through eight innings and handed that lead to closer Mitch Williams for the ninth.
A walk and an error immediately gave Atlanta life, and a Nixon groundball was able to tie the game. The night was shaping up to be a big missed opportunity for Philadelphia as we went to extra innings.
The Braves had a chance in the tenth, when Terry Pendelton singled and Greg Olson doubled. There were two outs and runners on second and third. Tony Tarasco came to the plate.
Tarasco would one day be a part of one of the more infamous plays in LCS history with the Baltimore Orioles in 1996. Tonight, he simply struck out and the threat was over. When Kruk and Kim Batiste hit back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the 10th, the Phils had a 4-3 win.
Atlanta was always loaded with pitching and sent future Hall of Famer and eventual Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux to the mound for Thursday night’s Game 2. Philadelphia answered with Tommy Greene.
Greene had enjoyed a strong year in ’93, but today didn’t go well. McGriff hit a two-run blast in the first to give Maddux some early breathing room. In the third, the game completely got away from the Phillies’ starter.
Nixon started it with a single. Even though he was cut down trying to steal, Jeff Blauser immediately homered. A double from Gant, single by McGriff and a walk to Justice loaded up the bases. Pendleton singled to drive in two runs, make the score 5-0 and chase Greene. Damon Berryhill hit a three-run jack. The score was 8-0 and the rout was on.
Maddux went seven solid innings, Pendleton homered, Gant drove in three more runs and the final ended up 14-3. Atlanta had secured a road split and was going home for the next three games.
Tom Glavine, the Hall of Fame lefty, was on the mound for Saturday afternoon’s three o’clock start. With the popular Georgia Bulldogs football team off to a woeful 1-4 start, it was up to the Braves to make an October Saturday worthwhile for local sports fans.
For the first part of the game though, it was Philadelphia’s Terry Mulholland delivering the pitching brilliance. He cruised through five shutout innings. The Phils got on the board in the fourth when Mariano Duncan and Kruk hit back-to-back triples to start the inning. But Glavine bore down and Kruk never made it home. Even though the Phillie first baseman hit a sixth-inning home run to make it 2-0, the Braves were still very much in this game.
And in the sixth, they got to Mulholland. In order, Blauser beat out an infield hit, Gant walked, McGriff and Pendleton singled, then Justice slashed an opposite-field double into the gap. In the blink of an eye, Atlanta was ahead 4-2 and Mulholland was gone.
Duncan made an error that extended the lead to 5-2. In the bottom of the seventh, the Braves kept coming. They scored four runs, the big blow being a bases-loaded double with two outs from second baseman Mark Lemke. Even though the Phils picked up a couple runs and Kruk added another RBI, Atlanta won 9-4.
There wasn’t much reason for the great sports fans of Philadelphia to be in a good mood by Sunday night. The Eagles, after a 4-0 start, lost to the Bears and started a decline that ended up with the city’s football team missing the playoffs. And on the baseball field, yet another Hall of Fame pitcher was rolling off the Atlanta assembly line. The Phillies had to face John Smoltz.
Then the Braves put immediate pressure on Philadelphia’s Danny Jackson in the second inning. McGriff and Justice each singled to right. With two outs, Lemke doubled in a run and Smoltz was staked to an early lead.
But Jackson had some experience pitching in tough postseason spots. With the Kansas City Royals in 1985, he had pitched gems in must-win Game 5s in both the ALCS and World Series. Both times, Jackson’s efforts spurred a three-game win streak that turned the series around. So it would be again. He settled in.
An error by Lemke opened the top of the fourth and then Milt Thompson doubled to put runners on second and third with one out. After a sac fly tied the game, Jackson showed he could do some clutch work with his bat—a two-out single that gave the Phils a 2-1 lead.
Jackson and Smoltz were in a classic duel. Each pitcher turned back two-on/one-out threats in the fifth and seventh innings. The 2-1 score held into the eighth. Jackson got the first two men out. When the Braves hit consecutive singles, Phils’ manager Jim Fregosi summoned Mitch Williams. The closer got Lemke to fly to left.
But the closer known as “The Wild Thing” never let his team get too comfortable and the bottom of the ninth got interesting. A pinch-hit single by Bill Pecota was followed by a bunt from Nixon. Williams booted the bunt. There were runners on first and second and still no one out.
Blauser came up and dropped down another bunt. This time Williams not only made the play, he got the out at third base. When Gant hit a ground ball to short, the Phils turned a 6-4-3 double play and evened the series at two games apiece.
Schilling and Avery were back on the mound for a late Monday afternoon Game 5. The Phils got the early lead when Duncan hit a one-out single and Kruk delivered an opposite-field RBI double down the rightfield line. Philadelphia added to the lead in the fourth when a dropped fly ball set up an unearned run. With Schilling churning his way through eight innings and Daulton adding a solo home run, Philadelphia took a 3-0 lead into the ninth.
Blauser worked a walk and then an error by Hollins prompted Fregosi to call for The Wild Thing. A base hit from McGriff brought in one run and put runners on the corners. A sac fly from Justice cut the lead to 3-2, but Wlliams had the first out and the only runner was on first base. He was poised to get out of the jam.
But Pendleton singled. Francisco Cabrera, the hero of the 1992 NLCS came to the plate and delivered again. A game-tying single left Schilling again with a no-decision after eight innings of brilliance.
Of more immediate concern was that Atlanta was now poised to win this game, with runners on the corners and still only one out. But Williams struck out Lemke and escaped.
It would be a rerun of Game 1—Philadelphia immediately scored in the 10th, this time on a home run from Dykstra. Veteran reliever Larry Andersen came out of the bullpen and put the side down in order. The Phils had a 4-3 win for the game and a 3-2 lead for the series. They were going home needing just one win for a pennant.
The Vet was alive on Wednesday night, but there were still reasons to be nervous. The pitching matchups that hadn’t worked well for Philadelphia—Greene v Maddux tonight and Mulholland v Glavine potentially tomorrow night were what the Phils would have to navigate.
Greene got out of an early Brave threat by getting a double-play groundball off the bat of Berryhill. Then the Phillies’ starter led off the bottom of the third by working a walk of his own. Dykstra followed with a base hit that gave Philadelphia their first scoring opportunity of the night.
Maddux got a couple outs, while walking Hollins to load the bases. Daulton came to the plate. The catcher hit one into the rightfield gap, plating two runs and giving Greene a lead.
The Phillie lefty kept that 2-0 lead to the fifth when the Braves again threatened. After a one-out walk, Maddux dropped down a sac bunt. A two-out single from Blauser cut the lead in half. But the Philadelphia offense had an immediate response. Hollins made a Lemke error hurt by ripping a two-run blast to make it 4-1.
The Phillies got more in the sixth. Thompson beat out an infield single. With one out, Greene bunted him up. After the hot Dykstra was walked, second baseman Mickey Morandini lashed a two-out double. Maddux was gone. Philadelphia led 6-1 and was just nine outs from the pennant.
Atlanta nudged closer in the seventh when Nixon legged out a bunt base hit with two outs and Blauser homered. Greene handed the 6-3 lead to the bullpen. No one in Philadelphia could be blamed for being excessively nervous about the relief pitching. But not tonight. Setup man David West took care of the eighth. And Williams set down the side in order in the ninth. When The Wild Thing struck out Bill Pecota, the party could start in Philadelphia.
Schilling’s brilliant two starts might have left him winless, but he was rewarded with NLCS MVP honors. Williams, for his ups and downs, still ended up with a 1.69 ERA in his five-plus innings of work in this series. Jackson’s big-time start in Game 4 is a forgotten moment in the annals of history.
Offensively, Dykstra and Kruk led the way, combining for 13 hits. Daulton was 5-for-19, but also worked six walks. And while Hollins’ 4-for-20 performance wasn’t good, the third baseman did hit two home runs, including the Game 6 bomb that put the Phils in command.
Philadelphia came up short in the World Series against the defending champion Toronto Blue Jays. Playing with fire in the bullpen finally caught up to them with a wild 15-14 loss in Game 4. Williams then let a 6-5 lead get away in Game 6 and this Fall Classic ended in dramatic fashion—a walkoff home run and a celebration in Toronto.